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Written by Ken
Published on July 17, 2003

John Williams Concert
- July 15th, 2003
Mann Center for the Performing Arts, Philadelphia

Got to see the master, John Williams conduct the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra last night. I can see why Spielberg and Lucas get along with this guy so well. He's very charming and soft-spoken. And the music was superb, all Williams' compositions.

He began with the "Liberty Fanfare" then plunged straight into movie music. The Overture from "The Cowboys," an older piece, was exhilarating. He followed that with selections from the moving "JFK" score, featuring discordant strings and an impressive trumpet solo. Williams capped the first half of the show with the memorable bike sequence from "E.T."

After intermission, the orchestra quickly took flight with "Hook" and various mood pieces from the Tom Cruise-Nicole Kidman vehicle "Far and Away."

Williams obviously saved his best for last, closing out the second set with a triple-whammy of selections. First, for the kids in the audience, selections from "Harry Potter."

Next, a beautifully rendered "Schindler's List," with that heart-breaking violin solo. Williams told a story of how he was so moved after watching the film for the first time that he told Spielberg he needed a better composer to do the score. And Spielberg apparently agreed, but told him, jokingly, all the better ones were already dead. The story got quite a laugh.

Finally, the power of the "Star Wars Main Theme." I can only tell you that hearing that theme performed live for the first time in my life, with the master himself at the helm, was truly unforgettable. Even the orchestra, normally dignified and refined, flashed smiles during the Star Wars theme. You could tell they were enjoying themselves as much as we were.

To cap the evening off, Williams offered two separate encores, the vibrant charge of the "Raiders of the Lost Ark" theme, followed by his composition of the NBC Nightly News - in his words, "just in case you don't make it home for the news." Like I said, superb.

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